Transforming Construction Network Plus: looking back at 2019, the first year in retrospect
5 December 2019
From a packed lecture theatre on a chilly wet night in November to a large community of experts ready to take the next steps to transform UK construction.
The Transforming Construction Network Plus (N+) is about bringing together academic researchers with industry and policy representatives to create a movement to change the way we design, build and operate the built environment.
Funded by UK Research and Innovation through the Industrial Challenge Fund, the two-year programme exists to create a new body of knowledge to contribute to the Transforming Construction Challenge and inform future construction policy and practice.
Professor Jacqui Glass, N+ Principal Investigator, commented:
''We have an unprecedented opportunity to transform our industry and the way that research contributes to this transformation is in our hands. We are looking to academics from across the disciplines and across the UK to step up and take part – the N+ is for all of us and we’re excited by the prospect of new research tracks, new thinking and new collaborations.''
Since the launch of the programme in November 2018, the N+ has engaged directly with more than 1,850 people, bringing together a diverse community of experts across the digital, energy, construction, and manufacturing space. By delivering thought-provoking events and sharing alternative insights, the N+ offers a new way of thinking.
This ambition was at the heart of the network’s first annual conference: Creating a Movement for Change. Undoubtedly a red-letter day for the N+, this one-day event shaped the first steps of the movement, by not only featuring renowned speakers and thinkers but also by gathering together a diverse and large audience of academics, industry and government representatives. The conference was designed to give the 150 attendees a new opportunity to explore new perspectives and go beyond their own expertise.
The conference is part of a series of events organised by the N+ team across this first year. Underpinned by the network’s key principles of encouraging interdisciplinarity and facilitating collaboration, the N+ held two Discovery Days and two international webinars in 2019. The Discovery Days aim to encourage ‘discipline-hopping’ and build on the importance of multidisciplinary skills; international webinars bring a global perspective to topical issues.
Building on the success of its first year, the N+ will organise two further Discovery Days and two Webinars in 2020. Thinking larger and bigger, the N+ will also hold a second conference in September.
Without strong evidence that is underpinned by robust research, it will be hard to change behaviours and processes in the construction sector, therefore, the N+ is providing academic insights to the construction community through its Research Programme. The N+ Research team has published a digest for businesses summarising influential ideas about business models from industry and academia. This first publication is part of a wider research programme exploring business models and industry change, which will feature both academic papers and an industry-focused digest series.
Transforming the way that we build demands input from many backgrounds and disciplines. The N+ supports small research projects spanning the digital, energy, construction and manufacturing space. With £1m to invest during the two years of the project, the N+ has organised two funding calls to fund projects addressing the issues identified within the Transforming Construction Challenge. The N+ has received 111 proposals over the two funding calls, with 48 different lead universities, 466 individuals named, and 95 industry partners supporting the project ideas.
With topics spanning interoperability, user experience, space tech for hospitals and performance improvement, the N+ awarded four small projects through the first round:
- Challenging Space Frontiers in Hospitals
- Developing consistent benchmarks to drive improved performance in construction projects
- Digital Enablers for Construction Transformation (DECONT)
- Putting people at the heart of future social housing design and manufacture
The second funding call will support projects addressing some of the biggest problems currently facing the construction industry. The awarded projects will be announced in February 2020.
Lisa Hanselmann, N+ Network Manager concluded:
''It’s been an exciting and busy first year for the N+. We wanted to create a movement and we are delighted to see that the community responded well to our activities and that so many people have engaged with us. We look forward to next year, offering more opportunities to our community!''
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